Spilling Ink: a look back on a year of blank pages

Ruth Haskins

My mother has a framed needlepoint on the wall in her study. It is visible from the desk where she practices her calligraphy, spending hours engrossed in calm, repetitive strokes until the page becomes a parade of duplicate letters curling over and leaning. Like a procession of waves. The embroidered picture is of a fountain pen, and beneath it in her own hand is this aphorism:

The alphabet is hidden in the pen, and everything is hidden in the alphabet.

I do not have the patience for writing with her nibs and inkwells (not to mention being left handed I would smudge the whole work into a some kind of Rorschach test). I do, however, spend a good deal of time scratching out memories and stories with a ballpoint Bic.This last year has been an exercise in trying to reclaim my writing voice after too long away from the page. I published 12 pieces (one a month), and I am sincerely grateful for all the feedback (even the gentleman who told me my work made him feel “throw up in the toilet sick”).

Truthfully, with all there is to feed your eyes it feels like something of an honor just to be read at all. So, one year from now I’ll still be here at the page, still be mining this vein. My pen is a pickaxe. And if everything, anything, something true is still hidden in the alphabet I am searching for it.


Below, in no order of popularity or chronology, are what I personally feel were my four strongest posts of the year.

Jumper: The Fleeting Life and Enduring Death of Evelyn McHale

A look at one of the most compelling suicides of the 20th Century.

The Devil in the Magic Box: A True Story Involving a Cow, a Mennonite, and a Vibrator (though not at the same time)

An account of an awkward misunderstanding on our farm in Grundy County, Tennessee.

For Opening Day

A meditation on grandfathers and baseball, on loss and hope.

These Matching Scars: Bike Wrecks and Broken Bones

My response to my own daughter’s traumatic bike accident.

Read more at TrapperHaskins.com

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